Title: The Year the Stars Fell
Author: Elizabeth Wehman
Series: The Newburg Chronicles, book 1
Major Themes: Michigan, Pioneers
Synopsis: When the Baker family moved from Pennsylvania to Michigan in 1833, it was the hardest year of Betsey’s life—and yet, in some ways, the best.
After I signed up to review Crooked Paths Straight, I decided I really should read the first book in the series before reading that one! So, I bought The Year the Stars Fell. I was really attracted to this series because it is set in my home state of Michigan, only a couple of hours’ drive from the area in which I lived most of my life. Any book that tells part of the story of Michigan’s history is attractive to me!
Hosea Baker decided to buy land in Michigan and move his wife and daughters there from Pennsylvania in the year 1833. His son Ambrose was already in the new territory, and he was determined to reunite the family, no matter what his wife Sally thought. Their oldest daughter Betsey was already married, and could hardly bear the thought of her family moving away to a new land—and then her husband Aaron made the decision that they, and their unborn baby, would also make the move. Soon, everyone except Hosea wondered if they had made the wrong choice. Would they even make it across Lake Erie, let alone through the wilderness to the Shiawassee River?
Eventually, despite early spring mud and thieving Indians, the family arrived at their new home. Now, there were many more obstacles to face if they were to survive even their first year. Wolves, mosquitoes, and fevers threatened their lives and sanity. Trees had to be felled to clear land for planting, a barn was necessary, and the Indians kept showing up, stinking so that Betsey couldn’t stand it. Through everything, Hosea’s faith remained strong—but could the rest of the family trust God? What would happen to them?
I enjoyed the storyline for the most part. The grammar and punctuation need some more editing; I struggled with being jerked out of the story over and over because of punctuation errors. Also, I thought the description of the plague of mosquitoes was overdone—but then I looked up the location on a map after reading the historical note at the end and remembered being in that very area one hot summer Sunday about 12 or 13 years ago and decided that maybe that part is accurate after all! The threat of the wolves seemed a bit melodramatic as well, until I read the historical note. So, maybe it would be wise to read that note first! Apparently, a good amount of the story, including what I considered to be the more improbable parts, is based on historical records.
The Year the Stars Fell is an interesting story about an often-overlooked part of American history. I have rarely found books set in Michigan, so I really enjoyed that. If you can get past the poor editing (and I hope that will be corrected eventually), give this book a try. I really appreciated Hosea’s deep faith and the way he quoted Scripture. I also enjoyed the way his daughters sang so much—and that is a historical fact. One thing I did wonder about, though, as far as historical accuracy, was that the family often worked hard on Sundays.
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults